Female students gathered in the Hinckley Center to be inspired by women in STEM fields at the biannual Women’s Career Conversations luncheon.
The event provided women majoring in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines the opportunity to learn from female experts in various fields. The College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology, and the College of Life Sciences co-hosted the luncheon Tuesday, September 27, 2016.
The four panelists were Cecily Vaughn, who teaches molecular diagnostics at the University of Utah; Julie Crockett, associate professor in the BYU Department of Mechanical Engineering; Sydney Hansen, North American Application Development Leader for food processing technologies at The Dow Chemical Company; and Sara Jones, Co-founder of EnableMint.
Jones said it was “so great to see so many smart, ambitious women in a room.”
The panel moderator queried the panelists on issues surrounding grad school, balancing work and personal life, networking, the panelists’ first jobs and preparation for employment.
Each panelist believed that advanced degrees were not necessarily required for all STEM jobs. Their advice was to evaluate goals, decide what career students would work towards, and then find out if a master’s or doctorate was necessary to achieve that career goal.
“For me, I found it was nice to go into industry . . . figuring out exactly what I like, what are the roles I could see myself shaping into,” Hansen said. “And then to take a step and say, okay, . . . can I achieve that goal better by just getting work experience or just taking an extra class?”
The panelists told students to keep an open mind and look at more than the “typical” engineering, math, or science careers. They also gave advice on how to maintain balance between work, family, and church responsibilities.
“The way I find balance is, wherever you are, be all there,” Hansen said. “So when you’re at work, you are giving one hundred percent of yourself and your energy to your work, so . . . when you come home to your family, you can give one hundred percent of yourself and energy there so you can still maintain those relationships.”
“It’s okay to let something slide a bit,” Crockett said, “so that you can make progress somewhere else, and then everything will come back together again, and you’ll have more time for something else.”
Jones shared specific advice on how to be a wife, mother and career woman.
“Have an open dialog with your partner. Make it very clear to him what your dreams are and hopefully that person will be willing to support you in your dreams,” Jones said.
Hansen told the students to support each other and refrain from judging women for how much time they spend with career or family.
“Everybody is going to form their own career and their own way of balancing,” she said.
All the panelists emphasized the importance of networking, not just at college and career fairs, but everywhere. They told the students to take every opportunity to meet and stay in touch with people in their prospective fields. Jones said networking is not just to get the first job, but to create opportunities in the future.
“When you meet a contact, you are not just going to get business out of that contact on the first contact. That’s just not how networking works,” Jones said. “You build a relationship over time, and then when the right stars align for that business opportunity to intersect, that’s when that opportunity happens, but its years down the line.”
After the panel ended, students could go up, introduce themselves to the panelists, and ask them specific questions.
Annie Reed, a junior in Chemical Engineering, asked Jones about her work.
“She has the career path that I want, so it was good to get advice from her,” Reed said. “Seeing a woman do what I want to do is very inspiring.”